May is a month in which we focus on the mental health of children. As one who is involved in the therapeutic educational environment, I see firsthand the effects of mental illness in too many of our children and teenagers. It is time to change this paradigm.
Four million children and teens suffer a serious mental disorder
Did you know that in America, over four million children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, school or with their peers?
Of children ages 9 – 17, 21 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder or addiction that results in at least minimal impairment. Half of all lifetime mental disorders begin by age 14. Often, long delays (sometimes decades) occur before diagnosis and proper treatment are begin.
In any given year, only 20 percent of children (8000 out of 4,000,000) with mental disorders are diagnosed.
So what are the consequences of untreated mental illness?
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth from 15 to 24. Over 90 percent of youth who commit suicide have a mental disorder. States spend almost $1 billion on completed suicides and suicide attempts by youth up to 20 years of age.
- Statistics also show approximately 50% of students who are living with mental illness drop out of school.
- According to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health—the largest ever undertaken—an alarming 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental illness. Rather than identifying conditions and intervening with appropriate treatment, we are incarcerating youth living with mental illness, some as young as eight years old.
- When children with untreated mental disorders become adults, they use more health care services and incur higher health care costs than other adults.
- Left untreated, childhood disorders are likely to persist and lead to a downward spiral of school failure, limited or non-existent employment opportunities and poverty in adulthood.
No other illnesses harm so many children so seriously.
The impact of mental illness among our children and teenagers is beyond tragic.
With decreased funding in mental health services, serious cuts in educational support services and many other limitations in the diagnosis and care of children who have mental health issues, it is essential this topic be a primary one in the national discussion on the health and well-being of our children.
It is good to discuss such a life-dominating issue for children and their families. And I plan to take my next few posts to discuss this vital topic on Lakeside Connect. The consequences are too great to ignore.
Source: Information taken from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.